Totally Tom are a slick and ambitious duo. Not for them the half-arsed series of unlinked ideas which make up other sketch shows. Instead, Totally Tom have written a tight sketch-based prison drama with dozens of characters and no set. Scenes and characters change every few seconds, but their Pyjama Men-ish like talent for sudden and rapid characterisation ensures the audience are never lost. However, the neatness of the sketch-narrative proved to be one of the show’s stumbling blocks. Although the sum effect is very entertaining, there are few sketches which stand out as memorably funny on their own.
This is not to say that Totally Tom aren’t great fun – Tom S had me in stitches as a fingerless convict explaining the art of flameless poi – but I couldn’t help feeling that the concept was holding them back. Watching the show gave me the impression that unrelated and better sketches had been sacrificed for less-good sketches that happened to fit in with the plotline. Many of the funniest moments came when the Toms broke away from the prison setting. For instance, Tom P catching sight of ‘the coolest guy in the prison’ leads to a brilliantly weird flashback showing the cool guy’s life on the outside, with Tom P as his adoring girlfriend and Tom S as the inaudibly cool biker, complete with James Dean pout. It’s a great moment, playing off the ‘awkward sexual chemistry’ that Totally Tom boast of on their flyers. Much of the show is rather hit-and-miss, but the duo’s breakneck pace means that if you’re not enjoying a sketch it’ll only be a couple of seconds until they do one you like better.